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December 25, 2009

Hall of Fame 2010: Edgar Martinez

From now until the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 is announced, The Hall is going to be breaking down each candidate. Some write ups will be lengthy...some will be the opposite. Some will be brand new pieces...some will be re-hashes of previous pieces.

Earlier this off season, we saw Ken Griffey Junior ink a deal to return for another year in Seattle and all I could think about was a day from my youth...June 21, 1991.

You won’t find it in any history books. You won’t even find it over at Wikipedia because there is no significance to it whatsoever.

That being said, look it up at Baseball Reference and you’ll see that on June 21, 1991, Randy Johnson and his Mariners upended Chris Bosio and the Brew Crew 5-1.

Sure bet Hall of Famers Griffey and Johnson were joined by those currently enshrined…Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Add Seattle’s starting shortstop Omar Vizquel to the mix and outside of an All-Star game, when was the last time you can say you saw five Hall of Famers on the field at the same time?

But did we see a sixth?

No, I’m not talking about Alvin Davis (even though I was huge on the former Rookie of the Year)…I’m talking about Seattle’s then starting third baseman Edgar Martinez.

Edgar Martinez a Hall of Famer? I can hear you scoffing now.

With Harold Baines not able to get more than six percent of the vote, how can “Papi” fair any better? Will Martinez be the guy that forces the writers to forget their perceived bias against full-time designated hitters?

Who knows? He’s getting a ton of support…but is it justified? Did Martinez do enough to garner consideration?

I’m on the fence.

I mean, unlike some of the other players that have been chronicled here at The Hall…Martinez doesn’t SMELL like a Hall of Famer to me. He has no “magic numbers”, but should we overlook that in the case of the Martinez? After all, this is the same dude that, in 2004, Major League Baseball named their yearly DH award after!

After a lengthy stay in the minors, Martinez proved that he was all hit and no field and that’s exactly why the Mariners cautiously took a chance on him.

Prior to the 1993 season, their optimism won out when Martinez tore his hamstring and never fully recovered. Sure, this hindered his ability to be an every day fielder…but not his ability to be a full-time hitter.

Two seasons later, he became the first (and to date, only) DH to win a batting title when he led the league with a .356 average.

But again, can a full-time DH find his way to Cooperstown? In the case of Martinez, I suggest you need to look at his qualifications first, then take into account the position he played.

At the forefront of his accomplishments is the fact that Martinez one of only seven players that have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, a career on-base percentage above .400 and a career slugging percentage above .500.

And who are the other six? Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and future Hall member Manny Ramirez. Not exactly a bad crowd to be affiliated with.

Martinez retired with a career batting average of .312, seven All-Star game appearances, five Silver Slugger awards and two batting titles. While he never brought home an MVP award, he finished third in 1995 and sixth in 2000.

It is easy to speculate that if Martinez was an every day player…he might have taken home the award in either one of those seasons. In 2000, he batted .324 with a career best 37 home runs and a league leading 145 RBI…and was 37 when he did it!

In what was the best span of his career (1995 to 2001), Martinez had a batting average of .329. More than half (1196) of his career hit total (2247) came during this time.

In 1995 and 1996 Martinez topped 50 doubles, making him only the fifth player to accomplished back-to-back seasons of 50 or more doubles. During the afore mentioned seven year stretch, he averaged 42 two baggers a season.

Apparently batting behind the likes of Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro had their benefits too. From 1995 to 2001, Martinez averaged 110 RBI and six times in those seven years, Martinez topped 100 RBI.

The guy is Seattle’s all-time leader in a number of their major offensive categories. He’s in their top ten in a slew of others. It’s even said that Martinez “saved Seattle baseball” with a series-winning double versus the Yankees in the 1995 American League Division Series.

So does the face of Seattle baseball, full-time designated hitter or not, deserve a plaque in Cooperstown?

Again…I’m on the fence.

We’re talking about a guy who wasn’t an every day player until he was 27 and because of that (and the hamstring injury)…his peak was much later than some of his contemporaries. He hit none of the magical milestones, brought home none of the prominent hardware and since the Mariners didn’t have much post-season success…neither did he.

Edgar Martinez is a guy who will probably stick around on the ballot for the entire 15 years that he’s allowed. After that, I suspect, his fate will be in the hands of the Veteran’s Committee.

BallHype: hype it up!

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